The Great Flood

Exactly a century ago, on the 26th and 27th of August 1912 Norfolk suffered one of the worst floods in its history, now known as the Great Flood. Unlike other catastrophic floods, like those of 1953, the flood of 1912 was caused almost entirely by heavy rainfall – up to 8 inches fell in some places.

The damage was widespread – particularly in Norwich where the lowest lying parts of the city were inundated, including the City Station and the Bullard brewery at Coslany. Carrow and Trowse were also badly affected, as were parts of Lakenham.

The Bure valley was also badly affected and the Aylsham Navigation, along the course of the Bure between Aylsham and Coltishall, was damaged beyond repair.

The floodwaters cascade across the road near the Anchor of Hope Inn in Lammas, near Buxton.

The railway bridge near Buxton, with the floodwaters almost up to the height of the tracks.

This is the same railway bridge, taken from the path next to the river, which shows the depth of the floodwaters at this point.

A train full of holidaymakers from the Midlands was trapped by the floodwaters in Aylsham station, and the passengers had to be rescued by a local fishing boat. One unnamed passenger spoke to reporters from the Eastern Daily Press:

I shall never forget the sight. It was terrible; nothing but water with wrecks of huts and gardens and trees floating, and it was as deep as the sea.

On the Navigation, all of the locks were effectively destroyed and many bridges collapsed. It took several years for all of the bridges to be repaired, and some bridges were still only temporary structures until the 1920s. The Navigation itself was officially abandoned in 1928.

We have been working with the Aylsham Local History Society to investigate the history of the Aylsham Navigation from its inception in the late eighteenth century to its end in August 1912. One of the main outcomes of the project is a publication written by members of the Society and other volunteers, and the book was finished and printed just in time for the centenary of the Great Flood.

This weekend, the local community came together in Coltishall to remember the Great Flood of August 1912. The event was organised by the Bure Navigation Conservation Trust which aims to promote our understanding of this stretch of the River Bure.

The restored wherry Albion came up the Bure from the Broads, and was greeted by a flotilla of sea scouts in canoes. The scouts left Aylsham at 8am that morning to travel down the course of the Navigation, which is no longer accessible to larger vessels. It took them about 6 hours to make the 9 mile journey.

The book published as part of this project will be officially launched next month, but this centenary weekend was a fitting moment to end our project and celebrate the history of the Navigation.